One of Britain’s newer universities, Northampton is driving a revolution in which students are empowered to be active participants in their learning.
The university’s new Waterside Campus in the heart of the town has been designed to support Active Blended Learning (ABL), a new approach developed at Northampton that merges face-to-face teaching with the best practices of digital education.
Head of IT Services Rob Palfreman had the task of supporting this new approach with appropriate technology.
“Traditional teaching approaches require students to be no more than passive: large lecture theatres with rows of students and a lecturer at the front broadcasting to them — we believe that this isn’t the most effective way for our students to learn,” Palfreman explains. “Instead of broadcast lectures, we will have flexible teaching spaces for more intimate, collaborative and smaller-group-based activities.”
The teaching rooms are equipped with digital screens and supporting technology to facilitate collaborative learning.
Almost all courses now have associated “tools of the trade” software applications. Many of these are resource-hungry, requiring high-resolution graphics or large amounts of processing power.
“Traditionally, you would select a room, fill it with 30 high-end workstations, and install the software required for a specific course,” Palfreman says. “You end up hard-wiring a course to a room, and that restricts course numbers to the room’s capacity. For periods of the year, the rooms are empty and the resources are under-utilised. But at peak-times the machines are over-subscribed. It’s hugely inefficient, and you also have the large overhead of managing software installations on thousands of machines all over the university.”
Researching the options for a suitably flexible and versatile technology, Palfreman and his team decided on a virtual desktop approach. Systems Integrator and Gold Citrix Solution Advisor XMA introduced Palfreman and his team to Citrix.
“Citrix is considered best-of-breed as a technology,” Palfreman says. “But we also wanted a strategic relationship with a supplier that not only had the right technology but also a similar set of values — one that understood our vision for education and shared our values of social responsibility. We found that in Citrix.”
The new campus uses Citrix Workspace, which enables students to learn at their own pace wherever they are.
“Citrix gives us a secure application delivery method, even for high-end applications like CAD etc., so that an individual can use their own device — whether that’s a Chromebook, laptop, or even an iPad — to run high-end software wherever they are,” Palfreman says.
Pre-set, independent learning activities are a core pillar of ABL. Students complete online, multi-media activities in preparation for class so that contact time with tutors is used to best effect. When on campus, students often work in small collaborative groups before presenting their work back to the larger class. In this way, they also learn valuable skills for the workplace along the way.
“Citrix is fundamental to supporting the student experience and our Active Blended Learning model,” Palfreman says. “With Citrix, students feel the whole town is their campus. Without it, we just couldn’t achieve the mobility that we want to give students.”
With Citrix Workspace, all software is managed centrally from the university’s data center.
“With Citrix, the management of assets and resources is massively simplified, even for a complex estate like ours,” Palfreman says. “We can make sure everything is up to date, we can keep things patched, and ensure everyone has the latest version of each application.”
Students use Citrix Receiver on their own devices to gain secure access to a virtual desktop and all the software applications and information necessary for their course.
Because software is no longer tied to specific machines or labs, the university enjoys better overall utilization of real estate and software licenses. Students enjoy unrestricted access to the software they require, and class sizes are no longer limited by the availability of hardware.
“Education is now a commercial marketplace where students are paying money for services and expecting to get beneficial outcomes. They expect to have state-of-the-art services and ways of interacting with us that traditionally we haven’t catered for. Digital interactions and pervasive connectivity are expected to be the default,” Palfreman says.
Evolving expectations, the opportunity presented by a new, purpose-built campus, and Northampton’s new approach to learning have given the university a bold goal.
“With Citrix, we have a model that caters for choice without degrading service. We take down all of the barriers by giving ubiquitous access with end-to-end encryption,” Palfreman says. “By being forward thinking and visionary, innovative and ambitious, we are leading the way in the digital transformation in the sector. We want to be the Digital Leader in UK Higher Education, attracting students because of the way we allow them to work and learn. Citrix plays a large part in that goal.”
Citrix (NASDAQ:CTXS) is leading the transition to software-defining the workplace, uniting virtualization, mobility management, networking and SaaS solutions to enable new ways for businesses and people to work better. Citrix solutions power business mobility through secure, mobile workspaces that provide people with instant access to apps, desktops, data and communications on any device, over any network and cloud. With annual revenue in 2015 of $3.28 billion, Citrix solutions are in use at more than 400,000 organizations and by over 100 million users globally. Learn more at www.citrix.com.
Copyright © 2016 Citrix Systems Inc. All rights reserved. Citrix, Citrix XenApp and NetScaler, other marks appearing herein are trademarks of Citrix Systems, Inc. and/or one or more of its subsidiaries, and may be registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. All other trademarks and registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.